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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - How Speech Pathologists can help

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a term that refers to damage to the brain caused by an external hit to the head. TBIs can be caused by a number of different things, including car and motorbike accidents, sporting accidents, falls and physical violence.

When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the brain is shaken around inside the skull. You can think of this like a soft piece of fruit inside a lunchbox that gets dropped onto the ground. The brain can experience bleeding, bruising and swelling as a result.

Brains are very delicate structures, so bleeding, bruising and swelling from a TBI can have huge impacts on a person’s functioning across all areas of their life. Someone with a TBI can experience physical, sensory, cognitive, communication, swallowing, behaviour, personality and mood changes. Their symptoms may be mild or severe and they may vary within the day or across the week. The experience of every single person who has a TBI is different as all brain injuries are unique.

Speech pathologists can support individuals who have had a brain injury. In particular, they can work with someone on their swallowing, thinking skills and communication. Speech pathologists provide assessment and treatment but also education to help an individual with TBI and their supports to learn about what has happened and how to manage.


There are many ways that TBI affects swallowing. It can cause damage to the nerves that control the swallowing muscles, or impact the parts of the brain responsible for coordinating the movements of the muscles in sequence. A speech pathologist can assess your swallow to find out exactly why things have changed. They can provide strategies and recommendations to make your swallowing safer and more comfortable and can work with you to rehabilitate or improve your swallowing skills.


Thinking skills are complex but essential for us to function in everyday life. They include:

  • Attention and concentration

  • Long and short-term memory

  • Processing of information

  • Planning and organisation

  • Problem-solving

  • Flexibility of thought and openness to new idea

  • Inhibiting, or holding back urges

  • Initiation (getting things started) and more!

Speech pathologists work with people who have experienced TBIs to explore changes they have experienced, how it affects someone’s functioning, and ways to manage these changes. Speech pathologists focus on how these changes affect communication and relationships in particular.


TBI can affect someone’s ability to communicate in a number of ways:

  • Language – someone’s understanding of information, expression using words and sentences, reading, and writing

  • Speech – the sounds someone makes when talking, including how clear their speech is

  • Voice – the way someone’s voice sounds, how loud it is and its clarity

  • Fluency – how smooth and fluent someone’s talking is

Speech pathologists can explore different ways to rehabilitate communication skills after a brain injury, or find strategies to compensate and manage changes.

If you or someone you love has experienced a brain injury, we can provide the support to help you get back to what is important to you.


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